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What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is caused by an abnormal brain development that affects the part of the brain controlling a person’s muscle movements.

Cerebral Palsy develops during or soon after birth and is usually diagnosed before a child reaches the age of 3. It can cause a variety of symptoms mainly affecting a person’s ability to move, retain balance and regulate their co-ordination. Cerebral palsy does not get worse over time, but the symptoms a person exhibits may change over the course of a lifetime.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy start to become noticeable during the first 2-3 years of a child’s life. These symptoms are unique to the individual and depending on the severity of condition can vary greatly from person to person. Symptoms mainly affect a person’s movement and balance cand can also affect their ability to speak. Signs to look out for include weakness in the arms and/or legs, clumsy movements and the individual appearing weak or floppy. It can also cause a range of various other issues, such as swallowing difficulties, learning disabilities and poor eyesight.

Around half of children affected with cerebral palsy also suffer from epilepsy, they are both neurological disorders that often coexist with each other

Happy kid with cerebral palsy

When to get medical help

It is imperative to contact your GP should you have any kind of suspicions that your child is suffering from this condition. Although there is currently no cure, there are a variety of effective treatments available that can help your child reach their full potential in life and learn to live with the condition. For example, there are trained speech therapists that can help with communication, medications to aid in the relaxation of muscles and in some cases, surgery is also available to help improve movement.
After consulting your GP, you may be referred to a child development specialist who can provide tests and checks to help diagnose any potential conditions and determine whether your child is suffering from cerebral palsy.

Happy moment mother and kid with cerebral palsy

Causes of cerebral palsy

Cerebral Palsy can occur if a baby’s brain does not develop normally in the womb or becomes damaged soon after birth. Causes can include bleeding on the baby’s brain, an infection contracted by the mother during pregnancy or the brain not acquiring enough oxygen following a difficult birth. It is important to note that the causes of Cerebral Palsy are often difficult to narrow down and it is not always clear precisely what has brought on the condition in any one particular individual.

Treatments for cerebral palsy

Although there is no cure for Cerebral Palsy, there are a range of treatments available that can help promote as much independence and quality of life for the individual as possible.
Occupational therapy is one of the most commonly used forms of treatment whereby a trained therapist will look to identify any difficulties the child is currently experiencing and help focus on ways to make their situation easier. Physiotherapy, exercise, and movement techniques can also be used to aid any difficulties in the Child’s movement whilst medication for muscle stiffness and other conditions brought on by the disability may also be prescribed. In some cases, surgery is also used to treat movement and growth issues.
Each individual is affected by cerebral palsy differently, so it’s imperative that a treatment plan is tailored to the individuals’ unique circumstance and symptoms.

How cerebral palsy affect each person?

Cerebral Palsy affects each person differently and the level of severity can differ greatly from person to person.  Individuals may experience a range of mobility issues, including conditions such as spastic quadriplegia and 1 in 3 children suffering from cerebral palsy will be unable to walk.

The individual’s ability to communicate can also be affected by cerebral palsy with the condition known to affect a person’s capacity to co-ordinate the muscles around the mouth. They may also experience significant pain and discomfort, due to the various impairments brought on by the condition, for example many sufferers develop an abnormal posture and hip subluxation due to difficulties coordinating muscle movement. This pain can vary in intensity from individual to individual and if left untreated can lead to a variety of mental and physical conditions severely impacting the person’s personality, sleeping patterns and close relationships.  

They may also experience difficulty in eating and drinking with many individuals having issues with chewing and swallowing often referred to as dysphagia.

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